Monday, August 16, 2010

BOMT: That Changes Everything

1 Nephi 4:6-5:9

Yesterday (while waiting in the temple chapel) I discovered two AHA! moments in consecutive chapters. My mother used to say (in response to a very whiny "I KNOOOWW" from a younger me): "No learning has taken place until behavior has changed." I just realized the reverse is also true: No behavior can change until learning has taken place.

Notice Nephi's struggle.
10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
The Lord has, as promised, "prepared a way" by placing a drunk and passed-out Laban in his path so he can acquire the plates. Now the Spirit has instructed him to do something contrary to his prior learning: Slay him. Nephi struggles to reconcile this with his belief system. He's been asked to do something too difficult even for Nephi. As he tries to reason it out in his own mind, the Spirit tells him again,
And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property
You can just hear the wheels churning in Nephi's mind...Well, he DID try to kill us...and he IS a bad guy...and he DID steal all our stuff...but he still cannot wrap his mind around the idea of actually killing another human being. Finally with the third impression, the Spirit adds a new concept, a new piece of information that changes everything:
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
Suddenly, with that new piece of information, everything falls into place. It's like the missing link that connects everything else in Nephi's thought process. "And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered..."
  • We'll prosper if we keep the commandments
  • We can't keep the commandments if we don't know what they are
  • The commandments are engraved on the plates
  • The Lord put Laban here in this condition specifically so I can get the plates
And then Nephi is able to obey.

* * * * *

The second one occurs with Sariah and Lehi in the very next chapter.

Sariah starts out with this total crash-and-burn mentality, what can be an automatic place for woman to go to emotionally. (I was relieved that I am not alone in this.)
1 My mother, Sariah...truly had mourned because of us.
2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
3 And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.
Notice it doesn't say murmured...this wasn't under her breath or half-uttered. This was full-on complaining. She criticized Lehi, she mourned over their lost sons, she resented leaving their homeland, and was sure they were going to die out there in the wilderness. (Crash and burn.)

The way Lehi responds to this is a marvel in diffusing anger and hurt feelings:
4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
Lehi begins by agreeing with her (I am a visionary man) and then goes on to tell her what a blessing it is that he's a visionary man. He doesn't get defensive, angry, nor does he put her down. He just gently tries to turn the conversation around.

Nephi points out three "manners of language" used. The first is Sariah's language of complaint. The second is Lehi's language of comfort. And the third is the language of testimony. It comes after Sariah's AHA, when the boys return.
7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.
Lehi's response combined with their sons' return changed everything for Sariah. That one explanation and one answered prayer made everything fall into place for her. Now she knew Lehi was guided by the Lord, knew their mission to the wilderness was necessary, knew her sons were protected by the hand of God. She instantly moved from grumbling to grateful and (as far as I can tell) never looked back. I hope I can pay attention to opportunities for similar paradigm shifts in my own life. Sariah could have continued to complain, could have remained angry with Lehi, could have made all of their lives miserable out there in the wilderness, but instead she chose to speak and act out of testimony, allowing that new perspective to reshape her heart.

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